Our man walks the walk Downtown

The Brooklyn Paper
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I took a walk through Downtown last month. This was no normal stroll, but a walking tour of the rapidly changing neighborhood called “Anyplace, Brooklyn.”

Created by Prospect-Lefferts Gardens documentarian Samara Smith, the tour is part art project, part history lesson and part contemporary social criticism. Smith spent two years walking the streets Downtown, researching the project, recording interviews with locals and learning about eminent domain and urban renewal that is changing the place from a low-rise, low-rent area into a Gaphattan-style skyscraper park.

“I didn’t know what the project would ultimately turn out to be,” Smith said. “I decided it should be an audio walking tour because I wanted people to be able to walk though Downtown in different people’s shoes, to see the space through the eyes of the people who live, work and shop there and to understand that it is many different things to many different people.”

The tour begins in the public seating area in the intersection of Adams and Willoughby streets and leads quickly to the Fulton Mall.

The narrator pointed out several popular shops including Porta Bella Men’s Wear, a discount store specializing in suits and dress clothes, and Dr. Jay’s, an urban style outlet that carries fancy sneakers and clothes by Ed Hardy and RocaWear.

Shoppers bustled in and out of the stores, hawkers coaxed consumers to buy their wares and workers shuffled to subway stations and bus stops to head home for the evening. Young men huddled in small groups on the sidewalks, sometimes flirting with groups of young ladies, who were doing the same.

Soon the mall was behind me and my audio guide was leading me down a block on Duffield Street, now symbolically named Abolitionist Place because of its connection to the Underground Railroad. Following the instructions of the narrator, I stopped in front of a building owned by Lewis Greenstein, who says his building was once a stop on that fabled railroad. Greenstein told the story of the day in 2004 when he received an eminent domain notice from the city, which wants to take his building, and several others on the block, so a developer can build an underground parking lot for a hotel.

“The powers that be were not listening to us,” Greenstein lamented on the recording. “The little people were being ignored as usual.”

From Greenstein’s building, I headed over to Metrotech, the giant office complex. On the way, I noticed how different the lively Fulton Mall is from the office zone. Pedestrians stared down at the sidewalk as though their greatest fear was making eye contact with someone else. And unlike the shoppers on the mall, these people were only passing through.

The narrator explained that residents worry that new development that’s already being built as part of the city’s Downtown Brooklyn Plan will be too much like Metrotech — cold and uninviting. And that it will have the same effect on the people who walk through the area.

When I reached the edge of the complex, at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Flatbush Avenue Extension, the narrator intoned a startling fact through my headphones.

“You have just walked under at least 25 Metrotech surveillance cameras in less than three minutes,” the female voice said. “During this entire walking tour you will be recorded by more than 67 Metrotech surveillance cameras.”

I turned left toward Metrotech and heard from George Mays. He works at the Post Office on Jay Street and walks through Metrotech every workday.

“Once you step off of Myrtle to Flatbush, Metrotech hits you in the face,” Mays said. “It’s like they dropped a castle in the middle of nowhere. You get this feeling that you’re not welcome. It’s like you’re walking through a military base, I think that’s the best analogy.”

Only time will tell whether that unwelcome feeling will spread out from Metrotech and throughout the rest of the neighborhood. In the meantime, take the Anyplace, Brooklyn tour to hear from the people still trying to hang on.

The hour-long audio walking tour starts at the sitting area in the intersection of Willoughby and Adams streets. Download the audio tracks to your MP3 player at

Adam F. Hutton is a staff reporter with The Brooklyn Paper who lives in Prospect Heights.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

Jenna Weinberg from Park Slope says:
'Twas the Night Before...Monsters!', the first installment of a new family theater series opens at the Brooklyn Lyceum this weekend. We hope that you'll help spread the good word to your readership by including our listing in the coming weeks. The performance plays this weekend and next weekend alongside 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'. I've included both press releases and pertinent information below. We hope to gain your support in reaching out to share our work with the community. If there are any further listing requirements I'm not aware of please let me know and I'll be sure to get you that information. In addition, if you'd like to send a representative to see a performance, we're happy to offer complimentary tickets.

Thanks for your time,

For Immediate Release

Media Contacts: Jenna Weinberg 646.322.9218
Deb Klein 917-405-9909

Brooklyn Lyceum and Mainspring Collective bring you
'Twas The Night Before ... MONSTERS! in time for the holidays.
The debut episode of our new children's theatrical series Monster Literature.
Written and conceived by Daniel John Kelley

Showtimes and Specifics:
Sat Dec 12 - 12 and 3:30pm
Sun Dec 13 - 12 and 3:30pm
Sat Dec 19 - 12 and 3:30pm
Sun Dec 20 - 12 and 3:30pm
**Also on these dates: the return of A Charlie Brown Christmas: LIVE!
**The final weekend of this run coincides with the Lyceum's 2nd Annual Holiday Craft Market

Running time: 30 minutes. For ages: Pre-K - 5yrs, and adults too!
All Tickets $5/each or $15/four. Tickets available here or at the door.
Official Monster Literature website:

Brooklyn Lyceum 227 4th Avenue in Park Slope. Map it.
R train at Union Street. 718.857.4816.

Brooklyn, NY -- Just in time for the holidays! Mainspring Collective and The Brooklyn Lyceum present the first installment of their new children's theater series, Monster Literature, written and conceived by Daniel John Kelley. The first episode, 'Twas the Night Before...MONSTERS!' offers a new twist on an old classic when an evil wizard threatens to destroy the holiday spirit by changing the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' by unleashing his army of silly monsters. Young heroine Benjy Bleeglehorn (along with her dashing sidekick, Bravo Kirkwood) must battle this army of misguided monsters with their wit and compassion in order to restore the poem and rediscover the spirit of the holidays. 'Twas the Night Before...MONSTERS, featuring original music and video elements, is original holiday fun for the whole family. Join us for some monstrous fun at the Brooklyn Lyceum as we kick off this new ongoing series!

About Mainspring Collective:
In May 2007, a group of women in the outer boroughs of New York City decided to form a theater company. Women with the desire to bring artistic voices from different disciplines to the same table, to collaborate and invent, experiment, and play. Focusing on the creation and interpretation of honest work that they believe in, Mainspring Collective is at times a voice, a fist, a heart, a brain; but always a source of fresh and forward-thinking work.

Daniel John Kelley (Playwright) has had his plays produced in NYC by The Mirror Repertory Company, The Gallery Players, The American Globe Theatre and The New York Theatre Experiment, in addition to several independent self produced ventures. More info at

Pig Brooch Theatre Co. to perform The Charlie Brown Christmas - Live! with jazz trio, at the Brooklyn Lyceum. A Brooklyn Tradition in its 2nd year.

Thu Dec 10 - 7pm
Sat Dec 12 - 2pm and 7pm
Sun Dec 13 - 2pm and 7pm
Fri Dec 18 - 7pm
Sat Dec 19 - 2pm and 7pm
Sun Dec 20 - 2pm and 7pm

**The final weekend of this run coincides with the Lyceum's 2nd Annual Holiday Craft Market

All Tickets $10 and are available at
A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to The Children's Aid Society .
Brooklyn Lyceum 227 4th Avenue in Park Slope
R train at Union Street. 718.857.4816.

Brooklyn, NY -- In this extremely faithful presentation of the holiday favorite, Pig Brooch Inc. will perform verbatim the Charlie Brown Christmas Special accompanied by a jazz trio performing all of the Vince Guaraldi favorites live! This performance was lauded last winter as one of the favorites of kids and families all over Brooklyn, so Pig Brooch are bringing it back home. Bundle up, come on over to our house and we’ll take you back to the very first time you heard Linus say “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”

Pig Brooch Theatre Company, Inc. was founded in May 2004 when their original play Happy Mundanes was accepted into the New York International Fringe Festival 2004. After a successful run, the company teamed up with Dustin Helmer’s Kiek in de Kök Players to create and produce Love Is in the Air, a lost 1920s silent film presented by a company of Estonian clowns. Love Is in the Air was produced at the 2005 Fringe Festival before touring to Hamilton College in the spring of 2006 as part of a fundraiser for a new multi-million dollar theatre facility. The immensely talented performers from this production come from all areas of the New York theatre scene, from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, to Broadway, to the Metropolitan Opera House, to every rock and roll music venue in the city.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a tradition at the Penn State Theatre program that has finally arrived in Brooklyn. The actors all share a deep love for this holiday favorite and have worked extremely hard to match the exact physicality of the cartoon characters from Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Bring the whole family! We’ll have hot chocolate and hot apple cider available.

The Venue:
The Brooklyn Lyceum, known formerly as NYC Public Bath No. 7, is a performing arts and cultural center in Park Slope. Originally opened in 1910 as an indoor bathing facility, it once housed the largest indoor public pool in the country. Reopened in 1994 as the Brooklyn Lyceum, the old bathhouse now plays host to a range of performance events, children's activities, festivals and other cultural activities. Its café is open to the public daily and offers free wireless access.

Jenna Weinberg

Marketing Assistant
Brooklyn Lyceum
646 322 9218
Dec. 8, 2009, 3:12 pm

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